The federal government “is struggling to keep up with the world around it” due to “decades of persistent neglect, antiquated systems and outdated approaches to service delivery and problem-solving,” a report from the Partnership for Public Service says.
It adds that while the government has long recognized the need to innovate—an element of presidential management agendas in one administration after the next—efforts have been stymied by problems including lack of leadership support for testing and implementing new ideas; scarcity of resources to develop new products or services; unnecessary internal legal or regulatory roadblocks; and fear of being subject to scrutiny by Congress or agency inspectors general in case of failure.
Other barriers include a “lack of the data or the analytical skills needed to make informed decisions” and lack of motivation for employees, as seen by annual employee survey results showing that only two-fifths of employees believe that creativity and innovation are rewarded, and only three-fifths feeling encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things.
The report recommends (in its words) that agencies: prioritize innovation through leadership support; empower employees to be creative; remove barriers to effectiveness; make small bets on new ideas, iterate and learn from failure; scale successful initiatives and projects; value external expertise, creative thinking and diversity of thought; center on the customer experience; align innovative efforts with strategic goals; demonstrate strong business practices; and create a culture of change.
The report includes explanations of those principles and examples of how they have been used successfully in certain agencies.